HMP Parc Young Persons Unit: Inspectors Commend Continuing Improvement – But CSIP and Catering Issues Must Be Addressed

Inspectors visited the Young Persons Unit at HMP Parc in South Wales last October and in their Report, published on 26th February 2019, said:

HMYOI Parc is a small juvenile facility comprising two wings and holding up to 60 boys aged under 18 located in the much larger Parc prison in South Wales. The unit and wider prison are operated by the private company G4S. At the time of this annual inspection there were 37 boys in residence.

At our last inspection we reported how good leadership and a re-energised staff group had contributed to significant improvement at the establishment. It was clear on this visit that the team had continued in their efforts to make the unit safer, more purposeful and more respectful. We had previously found high levels of violence, and boys with poor perceptions of their own safety. During this inspection, perceptions of safety were much better and recorded violence was on a consistent downward trajectory, with few serious incidents. Very few boys isolated themselves in their cells or were located in the segregation unit. The leadership team had established a reward-led culture that motivated most boys to behave, incorporating an evidence-based instant rewards scheme that we considered good practice.

Child protection procedures, an area in which we have previously been critical, were now much more effective and again evidenced good practice. Similarly, the multidisciplinary case management approach to managing the victims and perpetrators of violence through the application of a nationally sponsored process known as CSIP1 was an example to the many establishments that have struggled to grasp its potential.

Our highest assessments were in the areas of respect and purposeful activity. The units were clean and well maintained, relationships between boys and staff were good, and staff were tolerant but also displayed the confidence to challenge inappropriate behaviour when necessary. They balanced authority and care to create a supportive and disciplined environment.

The strategic approach to the management of equality and diversity had improved and health care services remained good. Time out of cell was impressive, even for those on the lowest level of the rewards scheme. There had been a progressive move to establishing a whole-unit approach to managing the boys at Parc. Departments worked together in a way we do not often see. Some experienced prison officers had been supported to undertake the postgraduate Certificate in Education training to work in education, which served to break down barriers between departments.

The education unit was exceeding the performance indicators set out in its contract and boys achieved a success rate of over 90% in most qualifications.

However, we made two main recommendations, one regarding the food and the other risk management. During our inspection, we spoke to most of the boys on both units. They were quick to praise staff and were very fair about their experiences at Parc, complaining about very little. This gave considerable credibility to their consistent complaints about food. Our own observations supported their negative perceptions and we would urge the prison to meet with the contractor at the earliest opportunity to address concerns in this important area.

Our second main recommendation concerned weaknesses in the establishment’s approach to risk management. Caseworkers worked well as part of multidisciplinary teams and were particularly effective in helping to manage boys on CSIP plans. The team knew the boys on their caseloads well and contact was good. However, despite significant information about risk being available to caseworkers, it was not always recognised or sufficiently investigated to inform sentence planning and management. This meant that planning for release did not adequately consider the vulnerabilities of or risks posed by some boys on their return to the community.

Given the energy and commitment put into addressing the concerns raised at previous inspections, we remain confident that leaders at Parc will make every effort to address our recommendations.

This was a good inspection and we found that the establishment was characterised by good relationships, excellent multidisciplinary work and strong leadership.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales writes:

There is no getting away from it this is a good report on a small unit managed by G4S, the same company that six months ago saw the Ministry of Justice step-in to Birmingham Prison, which it also then operated, because of disastrous issues of management and control.

The young person population at Parc is minute by comparison, the report is silent on the resources made available to this Unit in terms of staff profiling, a constant defect in Inspection Reports that prevent effective comparability, but this is a good report, on an often difficult to manage, volatile and vulnerable population.

Parc overall is a huge prison, one of the largest in Europe and a research report last month showed that Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe – despite having one of the lowest crime rates.

The rewards-based focus identified in the report demonstrates once again that more carrot and less stick is often the most effective way to achieve behavioural change, and G4S are to be commended for putting rehabilitation and reducing reoffending at the heart of their work.

The two issues identified as defective in the report must be tackled.

The issue with catering, producing food that is often cold, unappetising and the source of constant complaints – confirmed by the Inspectorate – must be a major focus now for the prison’s management; we have seen too many times how complaints about food can lead to serious unrest if the issue is not tackled effectively.

But by far the more serious issue is with the weaknesses identified with the approach to CSIP, which must be addressed as a matter of urgency. [Challenge, Support and Intervention Planning, is a system used to manage the most violent prisoners and support the most vulnerable prisoners in the system. Prisoners who are identified as the perpetrator of serious or repeated violence, or who are vulnerable due to being the victim of violence or bullying behaviour, are managed and intended to be supported on a plan with individualised targets and regular reviews.] 

My one point of caution would be that all the good work that is being achieved at this small unit at Parc risks being undone if the issue with CSIP is not addressed properly – and this takes on an even greater significance if, as seems likely at the end of their sentence, these young people are simply tossed back into the same toxic inner-city, high-crime, poor opportunity environments that they were first taken out of – but that is a societal issue for the Welsh and UK Governments as a whole to tackle, and in respect of which G4S to be fair can itself have little effect.

Read the Report

“There’s an awful smell of shrimp off that”

By Mark Leech FRSA

On 6th March the Secretary of State for Justice, Rt.Hon David Gauke MP, delivered a refreshingly honest and ambitious speech outlining his approach to managing our prisons; accepting the deadly dangers of Spice, the huge rise in the number of assaults and incidents of self harm that stem from it, and the place that Organised Criminal Gangs (OCG’s) have in controlling its supply and distribution networks.

The government, he said, was spending £14m on tackling organised criminal gangs in prisons, including on creating a serious organised crime unit within the Prison Service.

To tackle the matter further he was looking again at the policy of Security Categorisation which, he said, needed to include custodial behaviour in addition to the risk of escape and consequent danger to the public that it is restricted to at present – and it was reported in The Guardian that as a result as many as 6,000 prisoners may find their security category increased with the consequent move to more restricted closed conditions.

While that is understandable in principle, I heard nothing about processes in practice that, in order to be fair, must include fit-for-purpose safeguards to ensure that those identified for a security upgrade on this basis are rightly identified, and have a means of both making representations and the right to an independent appeal.

There also needs to be support services in place for them too, wherever they are sent, which addresses, challenges and seeks to change their behaviour; this process needs to be a positive journey, not a dead-end disciplinary destination.

Remember too the actual daily consequences to the prisoner of being identified as a OCG ring-leader are immense, in terms of physical restrictions, visits, Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL), access to courses, limited association, accessing skills and offending behaviour courses – not to mention the vital importance of progression towards their release.

On the positive side the Government, he said, was on course to make good its promise of an extra 2500 prison officers by the end of the year. Equally it was good to hear the Justice Secretary’s acknowledgement that incentives to good behaviour are vitally important too – he talked about revising the Incentive Earned Privileges Scheme (IEPS), giving Governors at a local level the ability to manage IEPS in their own prisons by offering privileges they deem appropriate and which are not foisted on them from the top down.

But the danger of course is that the exercise of IEPS discretion locally, within a system that works best with consistency, can be a recipe for trouble. While one Governor may allow an item in his prison, the next one may not – this inconsistency and the problems it brought with it, lest we forget, was the very reason we introduced Prison Service Orders and Instructions (PSO’s and PSI’s) in the first place, to obtain some degree of basic uniformity in the way in which discretions were to be exercised.

Has that policy now been reversed? If so they must have forgotten the terrible troubles in the 1980’s at prisons like Albany and Parkhurst, next door to each other, where the two governors had very different views on how their discretions were exercised; admittedly less of a problem now with clustering, but a lesson to remember nonetheless.

Revisiting Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL), and increasing skills training in order to assist prisoners obtain employment on release were also messages well-received.

But there were huge questions to be asked about this too, something didn’t smell right – or as my Irish grandmother used to say: “There’s an awful smell of shrimp off that.”

David Gauke’s predecessor, David Lidington, only a matter of months ago revealed another £400m cut in the HMPPS budget this year, yet David Gauke said nothing about reversing this in his speech, let alone the promise of more money.

Neither was there anything about reducing the size of the prison population, increasing the number of staff is one thing, but that takes time, training costs a lot of money, and a worryingly high proportion of new staff leave within two years of joining, once they realise what a dangerous and thankless task they have signed up for.

So while increasing staff numbers is important, until we can reduce the prison population to a level that is manageable, acceptable politically and safe for all, we are swimming against a tide where two currents collide – the independence of the Judiciary (who believe it is their divine right to pack people off to jail) and a Ministry of Justice – which seeks ever-more prisoners to the pound.

These forces are just too strong to make any of these commendable aspirations deliverable in real-world reality at all.

And there were other vitally important missing factors too.

Its all very well wanting to improve the employability skills of prisoners whilst they are in custody in order to help them gain employment on their release, but there is no point in starting on that journey unless you also recognise the legislative restrictions that must be changed to encourage it. The restrictions contained within the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) demand disclosure of criminal convictions in such a way as to undermine so much of what the aspiration itself seeks to achieve.

Under the ROA anyone over 18 sentenced to more than two and a half years in prison is required by law to disclose that conviction for seven years – serve a sentence of more than four years and convictions are disclosable for life.

Since 2005 all those sentenced to custody serve half of that sentence in prison – then they are released on licence and expected to get a job; is it fair a 20 year old who spends two years in jail should be required to disclose that conviction (affecting insurance, mortgages and employment) for what could be the next 50 years, even if they never reoffend again?

Real rehabilitation doesn’t end at the prison gate – it actually starts there.

If we make it nigh on impossible for offenders to move on with their lives with these hideous restrictions, we make it easy for them to fall into the grasp of gangs from which they are unlikely, without severe consequences, ever to be able to break free.

And it doesn’t end there: according to figures released by Barnardo’s 65% of boys with a convicted father will go on to offend themselves; this isn’t penal reform, its self-harm.

I understand that you can’t get everything you want to say in a speech, but you can at least mention the principles that will underpin your policies and, equally important, demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the obstacles in your way, and vocalise the plan you have to overcome them to achieve delivery.

Lamentably, I heard nothing at all about that.

In setting out a reform agenda, identifying the problems that beset our prison system and accepting the principle that people go to prison as a punishment and not for a punishment, it was a speech to be very-much welcomed – but insofar as it failed to set out how it would be delivered in real terms, it should be filed under ‘well-intentioned rhetoric’ rather than ‘real reform’.

Mark Leech FRSA is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales @prisonsorguk

Prison book ban is to stay say Ministers

The Prisons Handbook 2014
The Prisons Handbook 2014

A controversial ban on prisoners receiving books in jail will not be lifted, a Government minister has said.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said “sensible” restrictions on packages being sent into prison were necessary for security reasons.

He said inmates should also be required to earn their “creature comforts” and that allowing them to receive books as gifts would undermine the incentive for them to do prison work during their time behind bars.

There was an outcry among authors after it emerged that new Ministry of Justice rules banning families from sending small parcels to prisoners meant they could no longer receive books.

Mr Wright rejected suggestions the Government was trying to deny prisoners access to books, saying they could still borrow them from prison libraries or use their earnings from prison work to buy them.

“If prisoners want a particular publication then they can order that. There are no other restrictions on them and they can get a book from a library just as the rest of us can,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“What we are talking about though is restricting the amount of material that comes into prisons. That is sensible because we need to have a check, for very obvious security reasons, on material that comes into prison.

“It is also sensible because we are trying to change the system so that prisoners earn the creature comforts that they have in their cells.

“If we allowed people to send things in without any restriction then that would entirely circumvent that very sensible process of giving prisoners those incentives.”

The refusal of ministers to re-think the rules was angrily condemned by Mark Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

“Even prisoners in Guantanamo Bay can get given books as gifts,” he told the Today programme.

“We give children books because they are unequivocally good things which make them better people but we are apparently trying to make prisoners into better people by actually restricting their access to books as we are dealing with two entirely different species of human being.”

Mark Leech, editor and publisher of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1200-page annual guide to the prison system of England and Wales said security was a legitimate consideration.

Mr Leech said: “There have been instances where books have been sent in and in which the opages have been doused with liquid heroin – those page are then cut up and sold.

“Approved publishers, such as ourselves at prisons.org.uk are not effected, but security has to be a legitimate consideration.”

Report on Offender Management in Prisons – “A Truly Damning Report” say experts

POMI 2013

OFFENDER MANAGEMENT IN PRISONS: WORRYING LACK OF PROGRESS, SAY INSPECTORS

Little progress has been made in offender management in prisons and a fundamental review is needed, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, and Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today they published the report of a third joint inspection into offender management in prisons. The lack of progress is concerning, they added,  as it casts doubt on the Prison Service’s capacity to implement the changes required under the Transforming Rehabilitation strategy designed to reduce reoffending rates, especially for short-term prisoners.

Offender management is the term used to denote assessment, planning and implementation of work with offenders in the community or in custody to address the likelihood of them reoffending and the risk of harm they pose to the public. Community-based offender managers and staff in prison Offender Management Units have joint responsibility for undertaking or co-ordinating work with prisoners to address the attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle that contributed to their offending.

Today’s report reflects findings from 21 prison establishments inspected during 2012 and 2013. Inspectors found that, even taking account of the different nature of the establishments, some common themes emerged:

  • ·        organisational changes to offender management units have failed to address the culture of poor communication or mistrust between prison departments that undermines the potential of offender management, illustrated by their failure to use one central electronic case record;
  • ·        there have been some modest improvements in practice but these are inconsistent;
  • ·        prison officer offender supervisors continue to lack guidance and supervision;
  • ·        community-based offender managers still have insufficient involvement overall to be able to drive sentence planning and implementation;
  • ·        there are too few structured programmes available within prisons designed to challenge offending behaviour and promote rehabilitation;
  • ·        while some prisons offered a reasonable range of accredited and non-accredited programmes for their population, some offered no programmes at all whereas others were running down their provision; and
  • ·        provision for offender management was particularly poor at two of the prisons accommodating foreign national prisoners.

 The chief inspectors said:

 “We have come to the reluctant conclusion that the offender management model, however laudable its aspirations, is not working in prisons. The majority of prison staff do not understand it and the community-based offender managers, who largely do, have neither the involvement in the process or the internal knowledge of the institutions to make it work. It is more complex than many prisoners need and more costly to run than most prisons can afford. Given the Prison Service’s present capacity and the pressures now facing it with the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation and an extension of ‘through the gate’ services, we doubt whether it can deliver future National Offender Management Service (NOMS) expectations. We therefore believe that the current position is no longer sustainable and should be subject to fundamental review.”

Mark Leech (www.markleech.com), editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales said the Inspectors’ assessment that the Offender Management model was no longer tenable was ‘damning’.

“This is a damning report.

“It is an indictment against a Ministry of Justice that has consistently failed to resource prisons to deliver the reduction in offending that Ministers so often shout about  – and it reveals the lie in claims that we have a joined up criminal justice system with end-to-end offender management – nothing could be further from the truth.

“The fundamental review called for by the Chief Inspectors must start immediately – the victims of crime deserve nothing less.”

 NOTES:

The report is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmi-probation/inspection-programmes-adult/prison-offender-management-inspections-pomi-2 from 17 December 2013.

  1. This is the third report to be published from our joint Prisoner Offender Management Inspection programme. This report draws on the findings from inspections undertaken between April 2012 and March 2013 at the following HM Prison establishments: Buckley Hall, Bullingdon, Bullwood Hall, Canterbury, Channings Wood, Drake Hall, Forest Bank, Frankland, Full Sutton, Gloucester, Highpoint, Huntercombe, Leeds, Leyhill, Lewes, Lincoln, Lindholme, Northumberland, Onley, The Verne and Winchester.
  2. OASys (Offender Assessment System) is the nationally designed and prescribed framework for both probation and prisons to assess offenders. It makes use of both static and dynamic factors. Static factors are elements of someone’s history that by definition can subsequently never change (ie, the age at which they committed their first offence). Dynamic factors are the factors in someone’s circumstances and behaviour that can change over time.
  3. The NOMS Offender Management Model had introduced an ‘end to end’ approach to managing offenders from assessment through planned interventions to review. The intention was that a community-based offender manager (probation officer or probation service officer) would have responsibility for both the assessment and planning for all sentenced adult offenders in custody and for their eventual release under supervision in the community. The offender managers would work in teams with offender supervisors in prisons who would undertake most of the face to face work and case administrators. They would use other key workers as necessary to deliver interventions.
  4. Offenders ‘in scope’ of the offender management model were originally restricted to those supervised in the community subject to community orders and on licence on release from prison. Prisoners serving 12 months or more and classified as posing a high or very high risk of harm to the public, prolific and other priority offenders and those serving indeterminate periods of imprisonment for public protection were included later in phases II and III.
  5. The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation strategy can be found here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/transforming-rehabilitation
  6. For further information or to speak to Liz Calderbank or Nick Hardwick, please contact Jane Parsons on 07880 787452.

Legal Aid Cuts Threaten ‘World Renown’ British Justice System – and riots in our jails

legal_aid

Government plans to overhaul legal aid threaten to destroy the “world-renowned” British justice system, barristers have told ministers – and prison experts have said the measures threaten such a level of national unrest inside our jails that they could eventually cost far more than any potential savings would ever hope to save.

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has published its response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on legal aid reform, which includes paving the way for lawyers to compete for contracts.

The 150-page response said price competitive tendering (PCT) promotes the “lowest possible quality of service” and will result in further changes to civil legal aid, hitting society’s most vulnerable people.

Other changes will see criminal defendants living in households with a disposable income of £37,500 or more stopped from automatically accessing legal aid, while prisoners’ rights to the support will also would be curbed.

Maura McGowan QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “There is no avoiding the simple fact that these proposals would move us from having a justice system which is admired all over the world, to a system where price trumps all.

“PCT may look as though it achieves short-term savings, but it is a blunt instrument that will leave deep scars on our justice system for far longer. Further cuts to the scope of civil legal aid will limit access to justice for some of the most vulnerable. That is a legacy of which no Government should be proud.”

She added: “The proposals simply do not have a sufficient evidence base on which to attract support. We believe that if these proposals are implemented as they stand, the system will go very badly wrong. Once implemented, these measures cannot be easily reversed.”

Ms McGowan QC said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling should achieve any required reforms “without destroying a world-renowned institution”.

The Bar Council response said that the proposals would destroy the livelihoods of many smaller solicitors’ firms and the criminal defence Bar.

Criminal legal aid costs taxpayers more than £1 billion every year and the proposals should cut the bill by £220 million.

In April, reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) came into effect, removing large areas of law from the scope of civil legal aid.

Some law firms estimated the reforms will reduce the number of people who qualify for legal aid by 75%, meaning around 200,000 fewer cases, while barristers warned the cuts are the biggest to civil legal aid since the system was introduced in 1949.

In its response to the consultation, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the body responsible for regulating barristers, said plans to pay legal aid lawyers the same amount for a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea could lead to defendants being pressurised into pleading guilty.

It said cases where the defendant enters an initial guilty plea are typically shorter and so cheaper than trials to assess guilt.

Setting the same fee for cases where a defendant pleads guilty and for longer trials may create an incentive for lawyers to encourage clients to plead guilty.

Bar Standards Board chair Baroness Ruth Deech said: “These reforms may endanger the ability of our legal system to guarantee everyone a fair trial.

“While we accept that the current austerity measures are a consequence of the financial climate, protecting the public, and ensuring criminal cases are dealt with fairly and justly, remain of the utmost importance.”

Mr Grayling said: “We have one of the best legal professions in the world.

“But at a time of major financial challenges, the legal sector cannot be excluded from the Government’s commitment to getting better value for taxpayers’ money. We believe costs paid to lawyers through legal aid should reflect this.

“Professional, qualified lawyers will be available, just as they are now, and contracts will only be awarded to lawyers who meet quality standards set by the profession.

“Wealthy defendants who can afford to pay for their own legal bills should do so. Our proposal is to introduce a threshold on Crown Court legal aid so that people earning around £100,000 a year are no longer automatically granted legal aid.

“We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world, with about £1 billion a year spent just on criminal legal aid.

“These changes are about getting the best value for the taxpayer and will not in any way affect someone’s right to a fair trial.”

The disposable income cap of £37,500 per household would impact defendants with six-figure salaries, an MoJ spokesman added.

But Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said those figures were disputed by many prison law experts, and the threatened cuts in legal aid could end up ‘costing far more than the measures would ever save’.

Mr Leech said: “Look, its not rocket science, but history shows there comes a policy tipping point where one cut too much results in a backlash inside our overcrowded powder-keg prisons, which are things that we desperately need to avoid – these things can rapidly spread nationally, caused by cuts that while understandable politically are nontheless, in practice, just one cut too many.”

Mr Leech explaned: “In 1990 the riot at Strangeways prison in Manchester spread within days to 13 other prisons, it cost the taxpayer over ninety million pounds, people died, no one wants to be seen talking these things up, and certaintly not me – but we can’t ignore history nor the facts or the consequences that we know from history are seriously likely to occur.

“The lesson now, before its too late is this: Stop, don’t pick on vulnerable prisoners any more, they’re a soft political target but history also shows that pushed too far they are a formidable resistable force which when unleashed  has an incredible national impetus – try focusing  on the bankers (or ‘Banksters’ as they’ve become known) instead – or at least as a minimum let’s have a rational national debate about its policy.

“It’s not too late – but we really do need to be now all on the same side.”